For judgment

In John’s Gospel, Jesus makes a statement which seems quite strange at first sight.  “Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind”” (John 9:39).  This appears to be rather outrageous, because of the so often quoted verse, which follows the most commonly memorized verse in the New Testament (John 3:16), “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn (judge) the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).  How can Jesus come into the world for judgement, while at the same time come into the world not to judge it?

The purpose of God in sending the Son into the world is that the world might be reconciled, rather than condemned.  Yet although God’s desire is reconciliation with sinners, the very presence of Jesus in the world is a catalyst for decision either for God or against him.  The very next verse in John 3 makes this clear.  “Whoever believes in him is not condemned (judged), but whoever does not believe stands condemned (judged) already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).  Salvation, that is, reconciliation with the Father is offered through Jesus Christ, but this offer of reconciliation, once rejected, makes the condemnation, or judgment, of the sinner starkly clear.  As Heb 2:3 asks, “How can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”

Once the word of grace uttered by Jesus has been spoken but rejected, that word will judge the sinner on the Day of Judgment (John 12:47-48).  Jesus did not come with condemnation (judgment) as his goal, but judgment is unavoidable in regard to the Son of God, who came to save the lost.  His presence and his words call for a response to the grace of God found in himself.  The word ‘judgment’ used here need not have negative connotations, even though it frequently does.  But, it does contain the idea of making a distinction between two choices.  When Jesus had not come into the world, the choice was not so obvious.  However, he has arrived and he has offered himself for the reconciliation of the world.  Therefore, the choice, the distinction, is very plain now.

When Jesus makes the statement in John 9:39, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind”, he is making a statement about dividing between those who see who he is and those who do not.  The word used for ‘judgement’ in this verse (krima) is used only once in John’s Gospel.  It can mean “to decide on a question of legal right or wrong, and thus determine the innocence or guilt of the accused and assign appropriate punishment or retribution, to decide on a legal question, to act as a judge, making a legal decision, to arrive at a verdict, to try a case.”[1]  Innocence or guilt is determined by the response to the person of Christ.  The man born blind (John 9:1) was assumed by the Pharisees to be guilty.  But he is the one who ‘saw’ who Jesus is and responded in faith to his presence.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, failed to ‘see’ who Jesus is.  In this way there is a judgment between them.  The presence of Jesus divides people into two groups: those who respond to his offer of grace by following him, and those who reject his offer of grace.  This is the judgment, that is, the division, the decision, for which Jesus came into this world.

What, then, is the application of this conclusion?  Many Christians are unwilling to make judgments of any kind.  It is true that we have no right to judge another person’s sin.  However, it is wrong to make no judgment at all about people.  The gospel calls for a judgment.  It calls for a division of people into followers of Christ and those who reject the grace of God.

[1] Louw-Nida Lexicon

Comments are closed.